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The question Gators coach Dan Mullen was relieved to answer

Dan Mullen, head football coach at the University of Florida, speaks during a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 in Gainesville, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
Dan Mullen, head football coach at the University of Florida, speaks during a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 in Gainesville, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
Published Aug. 2, 2018

GAINESVILLE — Here's how heavy the off-field drama surrounding the Gators has become: Coach Dan Mullen seemed relieved during Thursday's media day when he finally was asked about his unsettled quarterback competition.

Surrounding that answer — "I don't know when we're going to be ready to make that decision" — Mullen faced 31 other questions. Eighteen of them were about off-field issues.

There were questions about guns, because two players (promising receiver Kadarius Toney and defensive lineman Kyree Campbell) face possible university disciplinary action for having airsoft guns on campus in May, according to a university police report. Gainesville police also spotted a loaded AR-15 in the backseat of Toney's car during a traffic stop last month.

"I have a no-weapons policy, but I think, it's not like you're not allowed to have a gun…" Mullen said. "Our no-weapons policy is about the education. It's when and where would be the appropriate times to have it."

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There were questions about gambling, after tight end C'yontai Lewis told police he was on good terms with alleged bettor Devante "Tay Bang" Zachery. The relationship between Zachery and some members of the program has resulted in tension and reports of violence or near-violence.

"Another educational part for our program and for our young men of making sure who you are associating yourself, who you're hanging around with, and are those people that are bettering your life or making you a better person?" Mullen said.

UF has looked into the issue, Mullen said.

"If we find something," Mullen said, "we'll let you know."

There were questions about possible NCAA violations, after Zachery told police he gave discounted rental cars to at least two players through his job at Enterprise.

"No matter who a source is or credibility of sources even, any time we hear any of those things, we look into all of that," Mullen said.

There were questions about suspensions (which won't typically be announced until game day). There were questions about dismissals; defensive lineman Keivonnis Davis is off the team after violating terms of his pre-trial diversion program in last year's credit card fraud scandal, and blue-chip recruit Justin Watkins is gone after being arrested on a domestic battery complaint.

And there were questions about Mullen's former Gators boss, Urban Meyer, who is on administrative leave at Ohio State as the Buckeyes investigate his handling of domestic violence allegations against ex-assistant Zach Smith.

"I sent him a text last night just saying he and the family were in our prayers because I know we've been very close…" Mullen said. "I've just seen a couple of the headlines here and there because we're getting ready for training camp right now."

When camp opens today, the focus on football will start to return. How long the off-field questions continue to circulate remains to be seen.

Gator bits: The NCAA cleared the way for receiver transfers Trevon Grimes (Ohio State) and Van Jefferson (Ole Miss) to play this fall, although the Gators are still waiting on an SEC waiver that would make Jefferson eligible immediately. … Mullen said all players have been medically cleared to practice in some capacity, including running back Malik Davis, the former Jesuit High star who suffered a severe knee injury against Georgia.

Contact Matt Baker at Follow @MBakerTBTimes.


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